Leaders Know Innovation Happens Best Alone

In chapter three of Quiet, Susan Cain tells us “Collaboration Kills Creativity.” The notion that working in teams can sometimes stifle innovation has been making the rounds for a while now, and Cain provides a brilliant explanation of the phenomenon and what to do about it.

She calls it the danger of the “New Groupthink:”

If it’s creativity you’re after, ask your employees to solve problems alone before sharing their ideas. If you want the wisdom of the crowd, gather it electronically or in writing, and make sure people can’t see each other’s ideas until everyone has had a chance to contribute. Because, according to Cain, group dynamics contain unavoidable impediments to creative thinking. Don’t mistake someone’s assertiveness or eloquence for good ideas. The loudest person may not necessarily have the best idea.

One action step I’m taking.

When I lead groups through SWOT analyses or teach leaders how to facilitate SWOT, I am now adding a step to help improve innovation and creativity.

Usually, we start with brainstorming long lists. Going forward, we’re adding a step I used to call optional. Now, however, it’s required. There will be a period of time where people will come up with strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats on their own. Once everyone has a few in each box, then the verbal brainstorming will begin.

What can YOU do to make sure there’s a private, individual step for your next creative project or innovation?

Thanks for reading,

Alan Feirer

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